Chapter 126: May 19 – Limassol, Cyprus

Vit was very depressed and embarrassed last night. And the same this morning. He said he confronted the woman that took my message and she said she forgot.

"Was it the woman I met?"

"Nii," he said sadly.

"Vit …"

"Kokhana, I swear it. I know it looks … bad. I am aware I behaved like an ass but …"

"Fine. Let's just … forget it. Just do me a favor and change your phone passcode. She may say she forgot but that doesn't explain how my message got deleted. Just … change your passcode for me. Please."

"Of course. I will do it now and you can …"

"I don't need to know it. I just don't want anyone else to have it. And I know it makes me sound like a jealous shrew but if you are going to have female friends, professional or not, warn them I'm not fond of those kinds of pranks."

He looked at me sadly. "You do not believe me."

"Wrong. I am choosing to believe you. I don't happen to like how those women make me feel. This … life … or whatever you want to call it … is difficult enough as it is. We don't need the kinds of problems other people seem to want to create for us."

I woke up twice in the night with him wrapped around me so tightly I could barely breathe. It was easy to get him to let go both times but it made for a restless night for me The night did not seem to have done Vit much good either but we both had work to attend to. He insisted I eat though I didn't really want to. He even walked me to security so I could meet with the students. I was ready to be over with whatever happened but Vit didn't seem to know how to let it go so I patted my pocket.

"Yes?"

I said, "I have our list."

"You … do?" he asked so painfully surprised that I nearly wept.

"Yes. I do. I can't promise that I'll get any shopping done but if I can I will bring it back to you. We can add it to our inventory and get another box together to put in our storage locker."

He straightened and seemed to be trying. "Perhaps you can find a few bottles of wine. I … er … drank quite a few while you were gone."

I didn't like the sound of that so I know I need to keep an eye out. At least it wasn't vodka. Those kinds of problems we don't need.

We had to separate from that point and I was off on the excursion to Limassol, Cyprus. I was extremely relieved to find out that I would be touring as security and chaperone both with the Science Club Tour. It meant more work, I wouldn't just be able to fade into the background but compared to what I'd experienced with the politicians, it was still going to be a cake walk. The one thing I had to be careful of was to not allow it to show because it would reveal how unhappy I've been and it would be caught on the body cam.

There are days when I had the body cam simply because it destroys nearly all my sense of privacy outside of the cabin. But such is life. It's not like the cabin is much of a haven right now anyway. Vit alternates between ignoring me and being morose because he thinks I am ignoring him when all I am trying to do is give him some space so I don't come off like a Needy Nelly. Whoever said this adulting would get easier as time went by obviously didn't know what they were talking about.

Today was demanding, but not overly so. The students were able to keep up and no one complained. They were too busy experiencing the natural beauty and delicious farm cuisine of Cyprus during an enriching outdoor excursion. They were certainly glad to "work the wiggles out" in a way they don't get to onboard ship.

First we drove with our guide along a scenic route to Pissouri and a small dairy house. Once there we met a dairy farmer and learned how the island's famous Halloumi cheese is made. Halloumi is a semi-hard cheese typically made from the milk of goats, sheep, or cows, or a mixture of those two or three. Each producer tends to have their own secret blend. Although the cheese has been enjoyed for hundreds of years in Cyprus, it has only in the last couple of decades become popular outside and the country and can be found in grocery stores and restaurants around the world. Because it has a higher melting point than many other types of cheese, it can be grilled or fried without losing its shape. For this reason, it's typically served cooked, which enhances its signature salty taste and makes it slightly crispy on the outside. It is also frequently used as a meat substitute. It also packs a punch nutritionally. A one-ounce cube is 25% protein and 25% calcium.

After the farm we headed to Alektora, where a picturesque nature trail awaited us. As we walked the slightly uphill path, we passed fertile farmland and Cypriot orchids. Our guide also showed us something called Adonis sprouts which are said to have sprung from the tears of Aphrodite after the loss of her lover Adonis. We pauseed at a rocky terrace to take in stunning views of the sea and Petra tou Romiou, the birthplace of Aphrodite. We continued on to a secluded beach, where we were presented with a barbecue lunch. As a surprise the students weren't expecting, they were able to take a dip in the crystal-clear waters.

I didn't go in the water but supervised the "science" where they took local samples of water and soil and asked our guide and the staff to provided the meal to tell them about their lives and what they enjoyed about living in Cyprus … and if there was anything they would change. While they did that I logged in the various food samples we were provided. There was afelia (Pork marinated in wine and coriander), sheftalia (grilled spiced mince balls), koupepia (grape leaves stuffed with minced meat and rice), stifado (Beef stew casseroled with wine, spices and lots of onions), loukanika (Sausages soaked in red wine and smoked), kleftiko (Lamb slowly cooked in a sealed clay oven and seasoned with bay leaves and other spices), lountza (Smoked pork done in a very Cypriot way), halloumi (the white cheese we'd brought with us from the farm), barbouni (a platter that held red mullet, octopus cooked in whine, kalamari, white bait, sea bass and a lot more), and talatouri (a yogurt dip with fresh mint and garlic). That wasn't all however. On the other table there was Loukoumades (Deep fried doughnuts with honey syrup), shiamali (Semolina cake sometimes done with orange or almonds), daktyla (Pastry done in the shape of fingers with walnut or almond, cinnamon and syrup), loukoumia (cubes of gelatin flavoured with rose water and covered with powdered sugar), shoushouko (grape juice solidified filled with almonds or walnuts, formed in a shape of long rods), kolokotes (a pastry filled with red pumpkin, raisins and cracked wheat), and koupes (fried cracked wheat filled with mince mint and spices). It was quite the spread albeit it all in sample-sized bites. Certainly the students did justice to all of it and even used manners and helped clean up after themselves which was much appreciated by the servers.

After our meal and the free time at the beach we took on Limassol's cultural and natural treasures, from its coast to its historic Old Town. Our guide took us past picturesque citrus groves and vineyards to the 12th-century Kolossi Castle. Built by the Order of St. John of Jerusalem, the three-story castle keep is remarkably well preserved. It is a huge, blocked shaped edifice that definitely seems like something out of the ancient Middle East.

From there we drove to the ancient ruins of Kourion to make a photo-stop at its Greco-Roman amphitheater, a 2nd-century BC structure that is still in use today. The rest of the site is an archaeological wonder. Here the students learned about the physics of building some of the buildings that lay in ruins around them.

Not far from Kourion is the Troodos Mountains where we visited the charming village of Omodhos. We had to get permission slips specifically for this part of the tour because here we learned about the Holy Cross Monastery. Why some people want to turn learning about Christianity into fear of proselytizing I don't know. Mostly we heared about its impressive wood carvings and old icons, and saw a restored wine press. Nothing was controversial in the least.

Before our guide left us, we traveled to the Old Town of Limassol. We explored the medieval castle quarter and had free time which allowed me to stroll the shop-lined streets of Makarios III and Agiou Andreou. I managed to spend some money while "strolling" as I wanted to keep my promise to Vit to try. First was the ubiquitous olive oil that seems to be a must-buy in every town.

Next … the wine. The main wine-making districts in Cyprus are the areas next to Limassol and Paphos. Xynisteri, Maratheftiko, Muscat, Mavro and other grape varieties are grown here, or so was explained to me when I showed an interest. The oldest and the most famous Cyprus wine is called Commandaria. This sweet dessert wine was mentioned by ancient Greek poet Hesiod who referred to it as Cypriot Manna - sacramental wine. Commandaria is the name of the area where wine was produced by Knights Templar and later Hospitaller and from where it was first imported to Europe. Zivania is another popular drink, which is based on wine. Being 45% by volume, it is produced from a mixture of grape pomace and local dry wines. I got a case and had it sent to the B. I was a little concerned but there appeared to be no need because it was sitting in our cabin when I got back in. And I was happy to see that the bottles of Five Kings, otherwise known as Cypriot brandy, made it without breaking.

When the shop saw I had money to spend they introduced me to a local embroidery made in the "knot to knot" technique. It is a lace and is considered to have roots in the early period of Byzantine rule. All the laces were handmade and when I asked about the unusual patterns I was informed that secrets of crocheting (the patterns) stay within the village they come from. I bought a few pieces despite their price. They were too unusual not to.

Did you know that carob is a product of Cyprus? An interesting fact: in ancient times people used carob seeds as a measure of weight. Each seed weights 200 grams – precisely as much as a carat, widely used in jewelry. Had I time I would have gone to the small Carob Museum that was in the area. I love unusual things like that and who knows if I'll ever pass this way again.

The carob tree is an indigenous species of the island, cultivated for four thousand years. Once the island's major export, the carob pods or 'black gold', were prized for their versatility, high nutritional value and hardiness that allowed them to be stored and transported across long distances. I couldn't bring back much – black gold is an apt name for it – but I did get some carob syrup, carob flour, and a carob toffee known as 'Pastelli' to share with Vit. The only other thing I bought was Walnut jam and a couple of simple bottles of Cyprus honey. Oh yes, and post cards.

I was in a fine mood when I got back to the ship. The meeting with Polina was very brief as their had been no problems with our group though I heard that the other students had slipped a bit in their behavior after being cooped up for a week with no outlet for their energies.

I was juggling my purchases and having trouble with the blasted key card with the door swung open and I discovered Vit was there waiting for me. In his hand was a mug of tea for me.

"You didn't need to go to this trouble."

"You … do not want it?"

"That's not what I said. I … look Vit. I just don't want to continue to beat each other up with whatever happened. Let's try and let it go. Thank you for the tea. It is thoughtful. Let me clean up and we can go to dinner or stay in. Which would you prefer?"

He sighed. "I … must attend one of those damn departmental meetings." He grumbled in Russian of all things using words I'm pretty sure he hoped I didn't understand then said, "It will run late and then I am scheduled for a night shift. I am sorry."

I could tell he was sincere. What I didn't like was that it seemed that was inferring that I would be angry with him for some reason. "Oh. Well then let's grab something to eat. Unless there is going to be food at the meeting."

"There will be but I would prefer us to dine together."

And that's what we did. He thought he was fooling me when he turned us away from a party that was coming towards us. It was mostly made of women and it looked like a couple were trying to get Vit's attention. Perhaps I have reason to be jealous but I'm not completely sure. Vit had a harried look on his face when heading off to the departmental meeting. It means something but I'm not sure what just yet.